Video Game Nerd Stuff

I don’t exactly have time for a new hobby but I decided it might be fun to get back into video games (something not on my iPhone). It might be because everyone around me is getting a PS4 or Xbox One. Or maybe it’s because I can’t eat while I play. And possibly it’s because I need some kind of stress outlet now that I have given up binge eating (I will miss you…). I don’t know- but it’s fun.


I kept hearing about Steam so I decided to check it out. Essentially it’s the iTunes of the video game world. I went out and bought a corded Xbox controller and downloaded Flashback and Ducktales Remastered. What a blast! Since I was using a laptop I tried out Flashback in my theater- too big to really keep track of everything, but cool.

My current Sony Vaio laptop is a few years old and not really built for gaming (for reference it scores about 30,000 on the new 3D mark… which is bad). Since I want to play games I decided to get something better suited to the task. Initially I looked at the Razor Blade, but reviews said the screen was really bad and for me 1080p resolution was a must-have. Eventually I came across the Pulse 17 from Maingear. I have a Maingear PC at work and really like it. The Pulse 17 is billed as a super slim gaming laptop and really pushed my buttons (visually and spec-wise). Since I wanted a laptop just for games I decided a 17″ screen couldn’t hurt and jumped in head first. I’m hoping to get it in the next couple of weeks and I’ll post a review.


Dimensions & Weight: 11.3″ x 16.5″ x .85″ & 6 lbs.
Screen: 17.3″ Full HD Matte Anti-Reflective 1920 x 1080 (16:9)
Processor: Intel® Core™ i7 4700HQ 2.4GHz/3.4GHz Turbo 8MB L3 Cache HD 4600 [47W]
Memory: 16GB DDR3-1600 1.5V (2x8GB, SODIMMs)
Graphics and GPGPU Accelerator: NVIDIA® GeForce™ GTX 765M 2GB GDDR5 with Optimus Technology
Hard Drive Bay One: 512GB SuperRAID -Dual 256GB Plextorl® M5M mSATA] w/ TRIM [1080MB/s Reads]
Hard Drive Bay Two: 1TB 5400rpm 2.5″ HDD
Audio: Creative Sound Blaster Cinema with 2.1 Premium Speakers
Ethernet Adapter: On-board Gigabit Ethernet
Wireless Network Adapter: Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 802.11ac + Bluetooth [Up to 867Mbps]

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m enamored with portable gaming. The Game Boy, Lynx, Game Gear and Turbo Express represent hundreds of my childhood hours. Recently I came across the GCW-Zero handheld gaming emulator and I decided I had to try it out. The idea of one system that can play anything (sans physical cartridges) sounds amazing. I have a fair amount of experience with game emulators so I’m excited to try this out. Review forthcoming!


CPU: Ingenic JZ4770 1 GHz MIPS processor
GPU: Vivante GC860, capable of OpenGL ES 2.0
Display: 3.5 inch LCD w/ 320×240 pixels; 4:3 aspect ratio
Operating system: Linux 3.x (OpenDingux)
Memory: 512 MB DDR2
Internal storage: 16 GB, most of which is available for applications and data
External storage: micro SDHC up to 32 GB or micro SDXC of 64 GB
Connectivity: Mini USB 2.0 OTG & Mini HDMI 1.3 out
Audio: Stereo speakers, mono microphone, 3.5mm mini jack
Other: Accelerometer (g-sensor) and vibration motors
Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz
Dimensions & Weight: 5.6″ x 2.8″ x .7″ & 8 oz

Porsche Perfection

In the end I just wasn’t able to let go of the 911-  it was just too enjoyable. Despite some fine work on our end one final problem persisted – the car continued to report that the air going into the engine exceeded the air being measured by the mass airflow sensors (long term fuel trims would rise along with a P1095 code, as reported by an OBDII scanner). It was only present periodically and didn’t cause any driveabillty issues but I’m a perfectionist. There was nothing more we could do on our end and so it was time to send the car back to Evolution Motorsports.


EVOMS found a couple of air leaks, but the car’s issue persisted. The current theory is that one (or more) of the injectors has an issue and the correct amount of fuel is not getting injected into the engine (which would produce a lean condition, as reported).

To make sure there was nothing else amiss EVOMS removed my engine for further inspection. More air leak testing, new plugs and new injectors (maybe I should have had them build the engine while it was out…). Nah, my only regret is my recent oil change 😉


I have hypothesized that the car’s DME (computer) might be faulty. Some of the things I’ve seen are hard to explain any other way. I’ll be curious to see how this turns out and what they find! The ground on my end is covered with snow at this point so at least there’s no driving downtime.

After I see where we’re at on the 911 and I have recovered a bit from the holidays I’d like to get my car ducks in a row. Maybe ship off the Vette to a high end performance shop and have them do a few more upgrades (I’m like an addict…).

Movies Watched in 2013

I have dedicated this page to movies that I have watched in 2013 (these have to be fairly current movies from this year or last year to make the list). Older years will show up as blog posts (there is a link section at the bottom of this page).  Newest movies are at the the top. My goal this year is 50 movies half in theaters. 

Results for 2013: 62 Movies, 35 in a theater. That’s it for this year, so it’s time to publish this list as a post and move onto 2014!

Frozen 7.5/10 – Unexpectedly entertaining. You have to love the snowman, Olaf- what a great character!

The Secret Life of Water Mitty 8.5/10 – What a cool movie! Really enjoyed this one. It was refreshing in a way that most movies aren’t. I think we should all take a look inside ourselves – there’s potential to be more than we are.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 8/10 – Some of the action was a little over the top (like jumping the shark silly), but on the whole the movie was an excellent synthesis of action and storytelling.

Smurfs 2 6.5/10 – Sentimental, simplistic but heartfelt enough.

The Lone Ranger 7/10 – Actually a lot of fun to watch. I’m not clear on how $200+ million was sunk into this movie.

Thor: The Dark World 8/10 – I think Thor is a great action franchise. I can’t help but wonder, as the world is about to end, “Where are the other Avengers?”

Planes 7/10 – This movie was blasted by critics but I thought it was really cute. Basically “Turbo” with planes.

Catching Fire 8/10 – A worthy sequel. Some movies like Harry Potter seemed diminished by following the books too closely (especially in the early movies) but the Hunger Games excels.

Ender’s Game 7.5/10 – Well, the book was better, but this was a good try!

Turbo 7/10 – This movie is a about something dear to my heart- speed. In a way it’s almost too happy of a movie- nothing bad ever really happens and the good guys win and win and win. It’s a feel good show- you won’t walk away feeling anything but upbeat.

Monsters University 7.5/10 – This is a cute prequel and a worthy addition to the Pixar film library. Nothing too surprising here, except was a douche Sully was.

Bad Grandpa 6.5/10 – I would have watched this movie even without it’s attempts to connect the hidden camera moments together with a “plot.” When it hit it was hard and funny, but when it missed it was hard to watch.

Escape Plan 7.5/10 – Finally, my two favorite action stars in one movie. I think Escape Plan is a great vehicle to show off these two action heroes of yesteryear.

Gravity 9/10 – Visually breathtaking. The plot isn’t amazing, but the way things unfold is incredible to watch. This is something you should see in IMAX 3D.

Rush 8/10 – “Men love women, but men love cars even more.” I’m a sucker for cars and this movie didn’t disappoint me. Based on the real life rivalry between James Hunt and Nicky Lauder – although embellished to make them seem more like enemies than friends – Rush chronicles their 1970’s Formula One races.

Prisoners 8.5/10 – Wow! This movie really worked for me. At almost three hours long I kept glancing at my phone hoping there was still a long way to go. Loved the plot, excellent acting. Not perfect by any means, but this is a great thriller.

Riddick 7/10 – This is sort of a rehash of Pitch Black. No real surprises here, but it’s a fun action flick.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters 6.8/10 – The kids were dying to go see this. It’s good, but it lacks something I can’t put my finger on. Maybe I have a hard time suspending my disbelief for things like this.

Paranoia 5.9/10 – Nothing special run of the mill sub-par thriller.  I was hoping there would be more tension in the movie. Or at least something to do with paranoia.

Red 2, 7/10 – Loved the temp and comedy in this movie. I think, overall, the red series is a solid geriatric action series.

Elysium, 7.5/10 – Overall I think this is some good science fiction.

The Wolverine, 7.2/10  – Sort of a hot mess. Jackman looks great, but the story just didn’t do it for me. Frankly I’m surprised there aren’t more people trying to steal Wolverine’s eternal youth.

Argo 8.5/10  – I liked this movie a lot. The storytelling was excellent and the tension was nice and thick. I realize they took some liberties, but they make an excellent movie.

Mud, 6/10  – I guess this movie received a lot of critical acclaim. I thought the themes of “complicated love” were okay, but the movie felt long and often boring.

Bullet to the Head, 6/10  – Not very inspired. Stallone as the “good bad buy” works okay, but it feels tired.

The Conjuring, 7/10 – This wasn’t as scary as I was hoping. I liked the pacing and there were a couple great moments, but overall it wasn’t anything special.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, 6.5/10 – This had some really funny moments, but overall the stupidity of the movie hurts a bit.

World War Z, 7/10 – Not half bad. I liked the aggressiveness of the Z Zombies and there was some good atmosphere and action.

Pacific Rim, 8.5/10 – This was just plain old awesome. This is the stuff I watched as a kid brought to life. In some ways it’s almost mindless (and there are some exceptionally large plot problems), but it give you the kind of rush you expect from a blockbuster. Visually breath taking.

Despicable Me 2, 7/10 – This was a fun movie. In a way it’s sad to see Gru get so domesticated but I guess it appeals to a lot of people out there. Love conquers all.

The Call, 5.7/10 – A little over the top. And it’s just too hard to swallow all the stuff that’s going on (or not going on). A miss for me.

The Purge, 6/10 – This started out so good. What a great premise. But the movie slowly degenerated into an almost comical slash fest by the end. Some part of this movie had me slapping my forehead (spoiler alert: seriously, who gives their kids security override codes during the Purge?), rolling my eyes and dry heaving. I’m sure the movie was trying to make a political statement, but it got lost on me.

Warm Bodies, 6.9/10 – Unexpectedly enjoyable! Expectations were pretty low. Some funny moments, some okay action and an interesting plot. (Spoiler Alert!) But love? Love is the cure for the Zombie virus? Hmm.

Jack the Giant Slayer, 7/10 – This tanked in theaters, but I don’t really see why. It’s exciting enough and parts of the movie are captivating. Maybe people just have trouble accepting that a beanstalk can take you to a non-existent world between earth and space.

Oz: The Great and Powerful, 7/10 – Visually I found this movie striking, but at the same time a little off-putting. I like the story of how the wizard came to Oz and the elements incorporated from the previous film (films if you want to acknowledge “Return to Oz”).

Identity Thief, 6.7/10 – It’s got it’s moments (you have to like Melissa McCarthy), but this is not great comedy.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, 6.5/10 – So over the top it’s surreal. Not great as far as action movies go, but there’s enough to keep you interested. Not a fairy tale for kids though.

Snitch, 6.9/10 – The Rock always does it for me. He’s been a bad ass commando, a warrior king, the tooth fairy and now he’s a caring father and truck driver.

Now You See Me, 7.5/10 – It’s got an almost Sixth Sense sort of reveal near the end. It’s clever and very fun to watch, but it doesn’t feel quite right.

Escape From Planet Earth, 6/10 – Somehow Escape managed to lack any of the Pixar & Dreamworks charm. I’m not sure if it was the cast, the idea or execution. A lot of the humor missed the mark for me. Our kids thought it was okay.

Parker, 6/10 – I like the mindless Jason Stathem action movies. This one seemed especially mindless. 

After Earth, 7/10 – I don’t really understand why the critics hated this one so much. I confess that I don’t understand what the movie’s title has to do with anything, but I thought the film, overall, was enjoyable. Maybe people like to bash on M. Night. Maybe people are being just a little to hard on Jaden or expecting too much from Will. I’m not sure- but I thought the pacing and the visuals were good. The story, while light and predictable, worked for me too.


Fast and Furious 6, 7/10 – There’s a lot of things to like about this movie- great action, a fun villain and, of course, Vin and the Rock.  A lot of it is too over the top for my taste and that makes the movie hard to take seriously. And maybe that’s the point.

Star Trek: Into Darkness, 7.5/10 – Many of the elements of the second Star Trek movie have been incorporated into this almost-remake. But it’s a fun backwards alternate reality version with some good hits and a few misses. An appealing action flick nevertheless.

I’ve sort of fallen behind with my mini-reviews. But come on, did anyone really read them anyway? I don’t think so.

Iron Man 3, 8/10 –

Oblivion, 7.5/10 –

Django, 7/10 –

Olympus Has Fallen, 6.5/10 –

The Host 6.5/10, –

Jurassic Park (3D), 7/10 –

GI Joe: Retaliation (3D), 7/10 –

Life of Pi, 8/10 – With its stunning visuals and moving store line Pi stands out from most other movies. In some instances I found myself totally captivated. This is a movie not to miss and Ang Lee probably deserves his Oscar.

Zero Dark Thirty, 8/10 – In terms of acting, cinematography and storytelling this movie rocks.

Here Comes the Boom, 5.5/10 – Formulaic to the point of irrelevance. Sort of a comic knock-off of Warrior. I like Kevin James but this is not his best.

Les Miserables, 7.5/10 – This was a very moving production. It’s clear that not all the actor’s are good singers, but the performance is emotionally driven so I can appreciate what they did here (can singers act?).

Ice Age: Continental Drift, 6/10 – I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of this series to begin with- prehistoric animals having social problems just isn’t that appealing to me. It’s entertaining enough to watch, I suppose, but it’s not great.

Last Stand, 7/10 – Arnold is really showing his age. In some ways the title of this movie is ironic. The action is good (over the top, of course), loved the Corvette vs. Camaro showdown but the overall experience was lacking. I saw this in a D-Box seat- never doing that again.

Hotel Transylvania, 6.8/10 – A cute effort, but nothing too special here.

Lincoln, 8/10 – Well acted, beautifully shot. I don’t care much for historical movies, but this was profoundly gripping.

Premium Rush, 6.5/10 – After I watched this movie I had a dream that I was Lance Armstrong. The premise of the movie is okay, but everything about it is kind of so-so.

 ParaNorman, 6.8/10 – The stuff they are doing with stop motion these days is pretty impressive. Visually ParaNorman is cool (the odd looking people don’t quite wok for me though), the story is good and it’s fun to watch. I think this movie is supposed to be funny too, but not a lot of it hit home with me. Not quite a Halloween movie, not quite horror and not quite right, but a good effort.

 Looper, 8/10 – Time travel is always a messy movie subject. Having your future self sent back to your present self for extermination is extra messy, but Looper pulls is off with a fair amount of finesse. There’s nothing spectacular in terms of special effects, but the ending is both moving and shocking. An excellent effort.

2010 Movies
2011 Movies
2012 Movies

Hughes Family: December 1 – December 20, 2013

December. The month we celebrate peace, joy and love but practice none of them. Each year I think “Man, last December was rough… maybe this one will be better” and each year one of Santa’s gifts is always disappointment. Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy the holidays but for some reason they just bring out the crazy in some people. I’ll have to throw up (literally) a post about my retail adventures when I have time. Despite December’s difficulty there are periodic pepperings of pleasure.


The first real snow of the year. I wish I was still a kid sometimes- not that I can’t play in the snow as an adult, but somehow as a child you’re immune to the wet, cold and dirty. Sledding, snow forts and shoveling (so far I have only done last).


Mike wanted to go to Texas Road House and get steak for his birthday. We obliged. They made him ride the saddle and to my great surprise he actually hopped on (after hiding under the table for a but)! I like to pretend it was the only way to get the birthday ice cream. Happy Birthday, Mike!


The Sabins hosted their annual Christmas party and rented a cabin in Sundance! Fran and I made the sojourn and were treated to dinner, games and the traditional white elephant exchange. Thanks Sabins!


Later in the month we had Mike’s Party: The Revenge. Round two involved a plethora of pals and Percy Jackson. He and his friends watches Sea of Monsters and ate donuts. Manly.
In honor of Bubs getting married we hosted another LAN party for him (I think this is seriously like the third one). We played, laughed, cried and ate until we couldn’t go on. And then, despite being bleary eyed and disoriented, we roused ourselves and played some more.


What’s Christmas without tiny houses covered in candy? According to the tradition of our fathers we crafted little cottages from graham crackers and used various sugared sweets to decorate them. We let Chloe sprinkle her roof this year which was a good start. On the right is Gabe’s house.


Here is my house (I always add an extra wing to give it the “daddy flair”). Fran’s house is next, decorated in a fine mix of blues, and then Mikes house and Claire’s house. Quite a cute little village.


We did some ornament shopping at Hobby Lobby (man that’s a lot of ornaments). Our artificial tree died this year (after serving us faithfully for over a decade). We toyed around with the idea of getting a real tree. We bought this little guy at Lowe’s (they use these on Fran’s island) and I suggested we use that. But in the end tradition won out and we got another artificial tree (save the Earth!). 


For our work party this year we went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. There were enough people this year that we got our own theater! We had Zupa’s cater the event and it was a blast. Great movie too. 

The rest of December will probably be a blur of events. Personally I’d love a quiet Christmas but that’s just not in the cards.

Hughes Family: November 1, 2013 – November 30, 2013

I knew it- this month has been crazy and the blogging has been sparse. I have been racked with guilt so I decided to bust out a November post. One I thing I realized is that with Thanksgiving so far toward the end of the month some of our traditional November activities – like the Christmas tree and gingerbread houses – will get pushed into December. As if it wasn’t busy enough…


At the beginning of the month Claire got baptized! My religious issues aside,  I feel that baptism is an important right of passage and I was excited to be able to participate. Our family and friends came out and I think it was a good experience for Claire.


I took the kids to see Ender’s Game (Mike had read the book and was especially excited). We went with my Dad & brother. I think we agreed that while the movie was good, the book was much better.


Speaking of books- I recently picked up a Kindle Paperwhite. Wow- what a cool reader! I’ve been looking for a way to read in bed without bugging my wife and the Kindle has seriously changed my life. The screen looks great (speaking in reference to readability) and the backlighting is excellent. If you read a lot I’d recommend this without reservation. I polished off a few books last month to break it in- one classic and two pop culture quickies.
1984 – This is an undisputed classic. The future just doesn’t get any worse than this.
The Circle – Sort of a precursor to 1984. The story outlines how integrated technology and total lack of privacy had have devestating effects. Not great, but worth a read.
Divergent – Interesting, but I didn’t find it particularly gripping. Don’t know if I’ll finish the series.


Fran has really made some incredible efforts to keep the kids from turning out like me (you know, sedentary). Gabe is still taking basketball lessons, Mike got “Most Improved Player” in football and he has also started wresting. Claire is still attending her gymnastics too! Nice work, Babe.


I set up a new blog for Fran a few weeks ago. The blogspot blog was getting neglected so I migrated everything over to WordPress and set it up at This was I can move some of my posts over to her blog and then she can translate my posts into French (and add whatever she wants) for her Family. I really think they’re going to enjoy reading about my cars.


And of course what would November be without a few delicious Thanksgiving feasts? My efforts to curtail calories were seriously derailed…


And some random stuff. Fran got LASIK! The best part of the proceedure was the awesome protective eyewear. Claire got a cut. She stabbed herself in the leg with a kitchen knife and ran around the house bleeding. She needed a few stitches- another right of childhood passage. And I got a hard drive. Fran picked this up as Costco. It’s a two terabyte USB mini drive. After a decade I have finally backed up my computer.

Okay… did it. What a load off.

I think you can guess which one I am…